PDF viewers

On turning texts into font rendering errors

I would like to have a PDF viewer that supports easy sharing the same annotations across linux and macOS and android.

Q: Is that feasible?

A: Only if we expand the definitions of easy, annotation and feasible.



The KDE (okular) and GNOME (Evince default PDF readers are more-or-less indistinguishable from the perspective of a user like me. Both are passable but have clunky annotation exchange. Evince has a terrible UI for even viewing annotations — It summarises the text of each annotation in the navigation sidebar as my name and the date. I already know my name. It’s the content of the PDF I am concerned with here. Navigating that monolithic text blob by choosing which bits of it are useful to me is the whole reason I am using a computer here, not wondering what is tuly me and what is someone else. I’m not saying there is no conceivable use case for such a UI, just not a one that I have had thus far in my decades on this earth.

dan dan dan dan dan dan dan dan

Also, it cannot save over the PDF you are currently editing; you have to make a new copy then manually rename it over the previous version. This is because, I suppose, mint condition PDFs have a higher resale value?



An alternative at the opposite end of the minimalism spectrum is qpdfview which, as the name suggests, clearly had a excessively fractious committee behind the design decisions. It has has dozens of settings with confounding nerdview names. Nonetheless, it can save and load PDFs, which is nice and not at all a given for the apps in this list. AFAICT it still doesn’t navigate PDFs by annotations, or support highlighting annotations of text in the commonly-understood meaning of that term.


Zathura seems to be the document viewer recommendation du jour in certain linuxy circles. It does auto syncing and updating and such. It has no annotation support AFAICS but goes fast. If you like typing / instead of Ctrl-F and think that you will save time by manually defining specific keyboard shortcuts in a config file, you will feel right at home.


Mac. TBD.


I’ve always disliked the gigantic Adobe Acrobloat Reader. It has become singularly useless to me now since there no longer seems to be a linux version. Maybe one could run it in docker if one needed to fill out a form?


mupdf might be an option although the linux versions look outdated.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntuhandbook1/apps
sudo apt install mupdf mupdf-tools


There is cross platform support from the commercial app foxit.

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